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JOHN MUES

An open letter to U.S. Sen. Steve Daines:

Recently, Senator Daines, you called four young newly elected congresswomen of color — Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib — on Twitter, “Anti-American” and “Anti-Semite.” Rather than retract your statement, you then went onto Fox News, doubled down, and even threw around the word “terrorist.”

A U.S. senator’s words can have real meaning. Given your position, a number of people follow and trust you. In your epithets against these women — on Twitter and Fox News — you have effectively called for action, even violence, against them. After all, according to you, they are “Anti-American,” “Anti-Semite” and somehow connected with terrorism.

Yet, these women have done absolutely nothing wrong. Their perspectives on public policy are different than yours because of the diversity and inequities of the communities that they represent. But they are each as American as you or me, and they love their country every bit as much as we do. I would know, as I served as an Annapolis-commissioned naval officer alongside brave Americans from a multitude of backgrounds, whose diversity improved our teams’ effectiveness. In contrast, you have put these young women in harm’s way.

This is not an outlying example, senator. You have turned a blind eye towards neo-Nazis and neo-fascists marching in Charlottesville, though countless American World War II soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen perished vanquishing the Third Reich, and though a young woman was murdered at the march by one of the neo-Nazis; the president’s borrowing of a phrase used by the Soviet Union’s Stalin to characterize the media as the “enemy of the people,” thus chilling free speech and placing journalists in our country and around the world in grave danger; the murder of an American-based journalist by Saudi Arabia, an oppressive regime which was then rewarded by retrograde policies you support; U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte’s body-slamming of a journalist for simply asking why he, as you, supports taking away affordable healthcare coverage from countless Montanans and other Americans; the president’s siding with Vladimir Putin, a former Soviet-era KGB officer, over our own intelligence agencies, with which I’ve worked; and, the 20-plus credible women whom have accused the president of sexual harassment or worse.

One’s voting and policy advocacy record is also a window into one’s character.

Yours has done damage to Montana and the United States. For instance, in this age of unprecedented economic inequality, you voted for a tax bill that widens that gap between the absolute wealthiest in America and the vast majority of us, straining our democracy. You voted to blow a multi-trillion-dollar hole through the nation’s pocketbook in order to give your major donors permanent tax cuts. You voted to transfer money from Montanan and American taxpayers into the pockets of wealthy foreign investors. You voted to cut Medicare and Social Security, though our seniors in Montana and throughout our country are already struggling. You supported President Trump’s withdrawal from both the Paris climate accords and the Iranian nuclear deal, seemingly doing the bidding of Saudi Arabia, which encouraged both actions. You voted for “short-term plans,” essentially fake insurance plans, in order to sabotage what little health care Montanans and Americans already have. You support President Trump’s trade war without having any end game and having trashed the international alliances we need to effectively stand up to China, hurting our farmers and ranchers.

I look forward to debating our competing visions in the coming months. Until then, I ask that you consider this open letter and be a better representative of Montana through your term.

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John Mues is a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, former naval officer and Montana teacher on the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation, and senior engineer in the private sector.

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